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Creating the Perfect Social Media Contest

By April 26, 2018July 14th, 2019Social Media Campaign Ideas
social media contest

I was recently stopped in the parking lot by a local Canmore professional who wanted to run a social media contest. She was under the impression that you can create the contest, post it on Facebook and people will enter. Sound familiar? You can make the draw and everyone comes a way looking like a hero.

Promotional campaigns, including Facebook and Instagram contests, are a great way to engage existing customers, get in front of new customers, collect user-generated content and other useful marketing data. But do you know the most important steps to creating a successful social media campaign?

Let us distill and simplify the process we use below. By following these steps you can run a killer social media contest and comply to the legal issues surrounding these kinds of promotional campaigns.


The 12 steps to running a social media contest or sweepstakes:


1. Define your goal.

If you want more brand awareness or you want more sales on a special that you have running, contests and giveaways are a great way to get additional social media exposure for your product or service.

2. Are you really having a Contest or a Sweepstakes?

Two of the most common promotions are Sweepstakes (games of chance) and Contests (games of skill). The major difference between sweepstakes and contests is that contest winners are selected by judges using a set of criteria whereas sweepstakes winners are randomly selected.

A Sweepstakes is a campaign in which entrants can win a prize based on chance. No purchase, payment, or other consideration is permitted, and the winner is picked at random.  The element of consideration must not exist in a Sweepstakes. Caution: consideration is anything of value the contestant must give up to participate, monetary or non-monetary, and can exist if the contestant must expend substantial time or effort that benefits the sponsor.

A Contest is a campaign in which effort, skill, or merit, is required to enter to win a prize.For example, you may require people to upload a photo or video in order to enter. The winner is determined by voting or other judging criteria. The element of chance must not exist in a contest.

3. Analytics

Make sure you have Google Analytics and the Facebook tracking pixel installed on your website. While you don’t need these items to run a contest, you should have these items in place if you a) have a website and b) have a business Facebook page. The Facebook tracking pixel will provide useful data that you can use again in the future to retarget those who engage with your contest. This is called retargeting. Once you advertise to past website visitors, pixels can also be used to track their behaviour when they’re back on your website.

4. Design your creative

You need images for your contest. Does your image have a call to action? Be careful with the amount of text you have on your images, we all know that too much text will cause the image to not perform as well as it can or not alt all due to Facebook’s regulations. 

5. Define your hashtag

Make sure to have a unique hashtag that you are not sharing with another event or promotion. 

6. Multi-platform contest?

We have run many social media contests over the years and have learnt a number of things. When running a cross platform contest, it’s best to spend the additional $40-$60 USD and use a contest management app like provides everything you need to collect, curate, and display user generated content from Instagram, Twitter, Youtube, Facebook, Tumblr, & Pinterest. Display approved photos and videos in galleries and even allow voting.

7. Write your copy

We have also learned that people are lazy. An amazing prize won’t drive someone to complete an action if it involves multiple steps. “Send us a picture of you with our product” is more like pulling teeth than running an enjoyable contest. The easiest contests and sweepstakes are exciting, have a valuable prize and require very minimal effort. For example: ‘tag a friend in the comments’, or ‘like our Facebook Page’. 

8. Create your contest or sweepstakes rules.

 You can find customizable contest and sweepstakes rules here. Define your contest period. When is the draw, who is eligible to enter/win, how will you announce the winner? No purchase necessary and purchasing does not increase the likelihood of winning are some of the most important conditions to include. Including that your contest and/or sweepstake does not have anything to do with Facebook or Instagram. Example:  “This promotion is in no way sponsored, endorsed, or administered by, or associated with, Facebook.” All of these details are so important!

9. Post those rules on your website. 

You probably want to include a full list of rules on your website. It’s hard to post them in Facebook or Instagram. Another option is to use a contesting platform like and your contest rules can live on there platform. 

10. Create the social media posts

Create the wording for your contest. While you can use the same or similar wording in Facebook and Instagram, you might have to modify that copy in Twitter. 
Here is a sample copy: 

Tag your X in the comments below and be entered to win a X experience at X. Contest closes May 6, 2018 at 11:59 PM. The winner will be announced Monday May 7th, 2018. Enter as many times as you would like, with the different X. 1 entry per comment.  
See full contest details: include link to your website with the details. 

11. Create the social media ads

You’ll likely need to boost the post or create an ad to reach more people. Set your targets, audiences and follow the best practises for Facebook advertising

12. Choose your winner

We like to use a random generator. New apps pop up every day and each one is better than the last, so find one you like that meets your needs. If you have 1000 contest entries it doesn’t make sense to have to add each of the names manually, so you might have to pay to find one which can sync with your contest. Random generation is really important in determining a sweepstakes winner. 


social media contest

When we start with a new client and they want to run a contest, we generally assume we have about 10 hours of work in front of us. After the revisions and approvals, time and time again, 10 hours is what it takes. 

When I go back to my Canmore friend and tell her the details of running a social media contest, she might wonder if the time and effort is worth it. We know that a contest or sweepstakes when paired with a strong goal, is always worth it.
Increase your reach and expose your brand to new audiences with a social media contest, you won’t regret it! Just make sure that your prize is worth the effort of your followers and you’ll have a great experience.  

– CarmellaCrew 

If you are looking for more tips on how to run a social media contest, visit Hey Orca’s blog


Author Carmella

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